Outcomes and outcomes measurements used in intervention studies of pelvic girdle pain and lumbopelvic pain: a systematic review
Chiropractic & Manual Therapies volume 27, Article number: 62 (2019)
Pelvic girdle pain is a common problem during pregnancy and postpartum with significant personal and societal impact and costs. Studies examining the effectiveness of interventions for pelvic girdle pain measure different outcomes, making it difficult to pool data in meta-analysis in a meaningful and interpretable way to increase the certainty of effect measures. A consensus-based core outcome set for pelvic girdle pain can address this issue. As a first step in developing a core outcome set, it is essential to systematically examine the outcomes measured in existing studies.
The objective of this systematic review was to identify, examine and compare what outcomes are measured and reported, and how outcomes are measured, in intervention studies and systematic reviews of interventions for pelvic girdle pain and for lumbopelvic pain (which includes pelvic girdle pain).
We searched PubMed, Cochrane Library, PEDro and Embase from inception to the 11th May 2018. Two reviewers independently selected studies by title/abstract and by full text screening. Disagreement was resolved through discussion. Outcomes reported and their outcome measurement instruments were extracted and recorded by two reviewers independently. We assessed the quality of reporting with two independent reviewers. The outcomes were grouped into core domains using the OMERACT filter 2.0 framework.
A total of 107 studies were included, including 33 studies on pelvic girdle pain and 74 studies on lumbopelvic pain. Forty-six outcomes were reported across all studies, with the highest amount (26/46) in the ‘life impact’ domain. ‘Pain’ was the most commonly reported outcome in both pelvic girdle pain and lumbopelvic pain studies. Studies used different instruments to measure the same outcomes, particularly for the outcomes pain, function, disability and quality of life.
A wide variety of outcomes and outcome measurements are used in studies on pelvic girdle pain and lumbopelvic pain. The findings of this review will be included in a Delphi survey to reach consensus on a pelvic girdle pain - core outcome set. This core outcome set will allow for more effective comparison between future studies on pelvic girdle pain, allowing for more effective translation of findings to clinical practice.
Resumen en Español
El dolor de la cintura pélvica es un problema común durante el embarazo y el posparto con un impacto personal y social significativo. Los estudios que examinan la efectividad de intervenciones para el dolor de la cintura pélvica miden diferentes resultados, lo que dificulta el agrupamiento de los datos en un metanálisis para aumentar la certeza de las medidas del efecto. Un conjunto de resultados principales basado en un consenso puede abordar este problema. Primero, para desarrollar un conjunto de resultados principales, es esencial examinar sistemáticamente los resultados utilizados en los estudios existentes.
El objetivo de esta revisión sistemática fue identificar, examinar y comparar qué resultados se miden y reportan, y cómo se los miden, en estudios de intervención y revisiones sistemáticas de intervenciones para el dolor de la cintura pélvica y para el dolor lumbopélvico.
Se realizaron búsquedas en PubMed, Cochrane Library, PEDro y Embase desde el inicio hasta el 11 mayo 2018. Dos revisores seleccionaron independientemente los estudios por título/resumen y texto completo. El desacuerdo se resolvió por discusión. Los resultados reportados y sus instrumentos de medición fueron extraídos por dos revisores independiente. Se evaluó la calidad de informe con dos revisores independientes. Los resultados se agruparon en dominios principales utilizando el filtro OMERACT 2.0.
Se incluyeron 107 artículos: 33 artículos sobre el dolor de la cintura pélvica y 74 artículos sobre el dolor lumbopélvico. Se informaron 46 resultados, principalmente (26/46) en el dominio “Impacto en la vida”. “El Dolor” fue el resultado más frecuente. Los estudios utilizaron diferentes instrumentos para medir los mismos resultados, particularmente para los resultados dolor, función, discapacidad y calidad de vida.
Se utiliza una amplia variedad de resultados y mediciones de resultados en estudios sobre el dolor de la cintura pélvica y el dolor lumbopélvico. Los resultados de esta revisión se incluirán en una encuesta Delphi, obtener para llegar a un consenso sobre un conjunto de resultados principales. Este conjunto de resultados principales permitirá una comparación más efectiva entre estudios sobre el dolor de la cintura pélvica, lo que permitirá un análisis más efectivo en la práctica clínica.
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) has been defined as “pain between the posterior iliac crest and the gluteal fold, particularly in the vicinity of the sacroiliac joints, and pain may radiate to the posterior thigh and can also occur in conjunction with/or separately in the symphysis”  (pp797). In the past, it has sometimes been considered a subgroup of low back pain (LBP); however, PGP includes also pain at the pubic symphysis and is therefore considered a different entity. The term lumbopelvic pain (LPP) is a broader term that has been used to describe LBP and/or PGP without differentiation between the two groups .
Pelvic Girdle Pain is a common complaint during pregnancy, affecting 23 to 65% of women depending on how it is measured and defined [3, 4]. Although many women recover after the birth, 17% have continuing symptoms 3 months postpartum  and 8.5% have not recovered 2 years postpartum . In Sweden, in a cohort of 371 women with PGP, 10% of women still had symptoms 11 years after the birth . In another Swedish cohort, 40.3% had long term pain in the low back or pelvic girdle area 12 years postpartum . Additionally, PGP is one of the leading causes of sick leave during pregnancy [7,8,10], resulting in large economic costs to families and society.
Studies examining the effectiveness of interventions for PGP measure different outcomes, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to pool data in meta-analysis to increase the certainty of effect measures [11, 12]. To address this issue, an international consensus-based Core Outcome Set (COS) for PGP is being developed (registration: http://www.comet-initiative.org/studies/details/958) . The systematic review presented here forms the first key part of the PGP-COS (Pelvic Girdle Pain – Core Outcome Set) study and provides a structured overview of the outcomes and outcome measurements that are used across PGP as well as LPP (since this includes PGP) intervention studies and systematic reviews. It will feed into the larger PGP-COS study by providing a preliminary list of outcomes that will be included into an online Delphi survey and face-to-face consensus meeting to identify a final COS for PGP.
The objective of this systematic review was to identify and examine what outcomes are measured and reported, and how outcomes are measured, in intervention studies and systematic reviews of interventions for PGP.
The protocol for this systematic review was published as part of the PGP-COS study protocol . Criteria for considering papers for inclusion in the systematic review are outlined in Table 1. A second objective (To compare outcomes measured in intervention studies and systematic reviews on PGP to outcomes measured in studies on LPP) was added post hoc, since many studies that we identified in preliminary searches did not differentiate between LBP or PGP, and it was considered important to compare outcomes measured in these studies since LPP includes PGP. We analysed and have presented the results by the subgroups PGP and LPP.
Search methods & study selection
The following databases were searched on the 11th May 2018 (from inception): PubMed, the Cochrane Library, PEDro and Embase. Details of search terms used for each database can be found in Additional file 1. No language or time filters were applied. We screened reference lists of included studies for further relevant studies. Citations were exported to Endnote and duplicates were removed. Two review authors (FW, MO) reviewed each citation independently against the inclusion criteria in two stages: (a) title and abstract screening and (b) full text screening, using Covidence software . Disagreement was resolved through discussion.
Data collection and synthesis
All outcomes (and their verbatim definitions) examined in the included studies were extracted by two reviewers (FW, MO) independently and their corresponding outcome measurement instruments/methods, where reported, were also recorded. The quality of outcome reporting was assessed using the six questions proposed by Harmen et al.  and this was conducted by two independent reviewers (FW, MO). The outcomes were then grouped into core outcome domains using the OMERACT (Outcome measures in rheumatology) filter 2.0 framework: (a) life impact; (b) resource use/economic impact; (c) pathophysiological manifestations and (d) death . This framework aims to provide a structure for measuring outcomes and developing core outcome sets. Within the OMERACT framework ‘adverse events’ should also be flagged alongside the core domains. We therefore grouped adverse events into a separate domain . The findings are synthesised and reported by these core domains, for PGP and LPP separately, for comparison. We have reported this systematic review according to the PRISMA guideline .
Screening and selection of included papers
A total of 7092 studies were identified from the initial search after removal of duplicates. We excluded 6842 studies during title and abstract screening, and the full texts of 250 articles were reviewed. A total of 145 studies were excluded at full text selection. Reasons for exclusion were: duplicates (n = 30), the wrong study design (n = 67), published in a language other than English (n = 7), examining LBP only (n = 30), or the wrong study population (n = 11). A further two studies were identified for inclusion from screening reference lists of included studies, with a total of 107 studies being included in the analysis. Figure 1 provides a flow diagram detailing the results of the search and selection process.
Characteristics of included studies
Of the 107 studies included in the review, 31 were systematic reviews, 61 were Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) (including one follow up study  of another included study ), 11 were non-controlled intervention studies, two studies were non-randomised controlled studies [20, 21] and one study identified itself as a quasi-randomised design because no blinding of participates took place . A total of 33 studies on PGP and 74 studies on LPP were included. Studies were published between the year 1991 and 2018, with 54% of studies published in the last 5 years. Studies were undertaken in a variety of geographical locations, across Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa, with the highest percentage in Europe (66%), particularly in Sweden and Norway (30% of all included studies). Of the studies that focused on PGP, 24 studies (72.7%) included a physical examination as a requirement for the diagnosis of PGP. In comparison, only 18 (24.3%) of the studies focusing on LPP included a physical examination as a requirement for a diagnosis of LPP. Additional details of the characteristics of included studies can be found in Additional file 2.
An overview of the quality of reporting of the included studies  is presented in Tables 2 and 3, with higher quality reporting indicated by a yes vote, where applicable. All PGP studies (100%) and most LPP studies (94%) clearly reported and defined the primary outcome(s). About two thirds of studies did not differentiate between primary and secondary outcomes, making questions three and four not applicable. For transparency, the full quality of reporting assessment of each study determined by the six questions outlined by Harmen et al.  can be found in Additional file 3.
Outcomes and outcome measurements
A total of 46 outcomes were identified and categorised into core domains using the OMERACT filter 2.0 framework: ‘life impact’, ‘resource use/economic impact’, ‘pathophysiological manifestations’ and ‘death’. No outcomes were identified in the core domain ‘death’, but ‘adverse events’ outcomes were identified. Outcomes and their corresponding outcome measurements are presented separately for studies that focused on PGP or focused on LPP in the Tables 4, 5, 6 and 7. Of the 46 outcomes identified, 26 were in the life impact core domain (Table 4), five were in the resource-use/economic impact domain (Table 5), 11 were in the pathophysiological domain (Table 6), and four outcomes were classified in the adverse events domain (Table 7).
The differences in the number of outcomes reported in studies on PGP and studies on LPP by core domain are outlined in the Table 8. Notable, psychological outcomes and economic outcomes were more commonly measured in LPP studies compared to PGP studies. A further comparison of the different outcomes reported in each domain between PGP and LPP studies is outlined in Additional file 4.
A large number of primary intervention studies (n = 76) and systematic reviews (n = 31) were identified. A total of 46 outcomes were measured across all studies. The majority of outcomes related to the ‘life impact’ core domain of the OMERACT framework. This would be expected considering the nature and main symptoms of PGP and LPP. Within the life impact core domain, pain intensity was the most commonly reported outcome in both PGP and LPP studies, followed by the outcomes function and disability. Fifteen (20%) studies on LPP included psychological outcomes versus only three (9%) PGP studies. This is likely because LPP includes LBP, which has had a strong psychosocial focus within the literature the past few decades, including on aspects such as fear avoidance and catastrophising. It might be that PGP is often perceived as a transient condition related to pregnancy and researchers therefore assess fewer psychosocial factors that are involved in developing chronicity. However, not all women recover and PGP can persist postpartum [2, 5-7, 118]. Moreover, PGP has been associated with psychological factors including emotional distress , depression [118, 120] and anxiety . Only 14 studies/reviews (13%) examined any adverse events. This is contrary to current recommendations to always assess adverse events for any intervention study or systematic review [121, 122].
A range of outcome measurements were used across studies to measure certain outcomes. For example, pain intensity alone was measured using 10 different outcome measurement instruments, and function was examined using 13 different tools across the studies. This emphasises not only the need for a COS but also for consensus on how to measure the identified COS. This systematic review will contribute to a list of initial outcomes to be included in a multistakeholder, international Delphi survey to reach consensus on a PGP-COS. Subsequently, the next part of the PGP-COS study will determine ‘how’ best to measure the developed COS .
This systematic review also showed that the included intervention studies/reviews often use different terminology to describe the same outcomes. For example, when examining the measurement tools for the outcomes ‘function’ and ‘disability’, the same tools are frequently used. While some studies use the term ‘function’ and others ‘disability’, most studies do not provide a clear definition of the terms. Another example of where there is clearly inconsistency in terminology and a lack of definitions in original manuscripts is for the outcomes ‘quality of life’ and ‘health status’. Again, the same measurement instruments tend to be used and terms seem to be used interchangeably across different studies. This observed inconsistency strengthens the rationale for the development of an agreed PGP-COS.
Chiarotto et al.  published a COS for non-specific LBP in 2015 and, while there was some overlap in findings, the list of outcomes they identified from the LBP literature differed significantly from our findings of the outcomes measured in the PGP/LPP literature. They identified the following outcomes in LBP studies that were not identified in our review of PGP/LPP studies: death, cognitive functioning, social functioning, sexual functioning, satisfaction with social role and activities, pain quality, independence (Life impact); informal care, societal services, legal services (Resource-use/ economic impact); muscle tone, proprioception, spinal control, and physical endurance (Pathophysiological manifestations). Outcomes that we identified in this review of PGP/LPP studies but that were not identified in the review of the outcomes measured in the LBP literature  were: Self-efficacy, confidence, patient expectations of treatment (Life impact); and anthropometric measures (weight/height), pregnancy and maternal outcomes, surgical outcomes (Physiological manifestations). Some of the observed differences could be put down to differences between PGP and LBP. However, differences in outcomes seem largely arbitrary instead of relating to the distinguishing features of PGP and LBP. Similarly, when comparing studies examining PGP only with studies examining LPP in this systematic review, the reason for the observed discrepancies in the outcomes chosen by studies’ authors are mostly unclear. This supports using the outcomes identified in this review only as an initial list for the consensus process to develop a PGP COS, allowing for other outcomes to be added by all stakeholders including patients, clinicians, researchers, service providers and policy makers.
Studies and systematic reviews examining the effectiveness of interventions for PGP and LPP assess a range of outcomes, predominantly pain intensity and disability/function, and use a large variety of outcome measurement instruments. Few studies examine adverse events and economic outcomes. Not only do different studies often measure different outcomes, authors also rarely define outcomes and terminology for outcomes varies, making comparison of study findings very difficult.
Availability of data and materials
6 min walk test
Activities of daily living
Anterior superior iliac spine
Bournemouth disability questionnaire
Body mass index
Brief psychiatric rating scale
Core outcome set
- CT scan:
Computerised tomography scan
Disability rating index
EurQoL visual analogue scales
- EurQoL – EQ-5:
EurQoL 5 dimensions
Hopkins symptom checklist
International consultation on incontinence questionnaire
Low back pain
Nottingham health profile
Numeric rating scale
Oswestry disability index
Outcome measures in rheumatology
Pelvic floor muscles
Pelvic girdle pain
Pelvic girle questionnaire
Pregnancy mobility index
Pain-O-meter visual analogue scale
Pregnancy Physical Activity Questionnaire
Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Patient-specific functional scale
Posterior Superior Iliac Spine
Quebec back pain disability scale
Quality of life
Randomised controlled trial
Roland Morris disability questionnaire
Short form 12
Short form 36
Satisfaction with life scale
Timed up and go test
Visual analogue scale
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We would like to thank the steering committee of the PGP-COS study for their input in the protocol of this review.
Maggie O’Donovan was supported by a Health Research Board Trials Methodology Research Network Summer Student Scholarship (Ireland). The funding body had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.
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Search strategy. A detailed outline of the search strategy of this systematic review including the databases searched and exact search terms used.
Charateristics of included studies. A detailed description of the studies/systematic reviews that were included in this systematic review.
Quality of reporting. The results of the assessment of the quality of reporting in the individual studies included in this systematic review.
Comparison of outcomes identified in PGP and LPP studies for each core domain. The outcomes that were identified in studies examining PGP only are compared to the outcomes identified in studies including patients with LPP. This comparison has been presented by core domain.
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Wuytack, F., O’Donovan, M. Outcomes and outcomes measurements used in intervention studies of pelvic girdle pain and lumbopelvic pain: a systematic review. Chiropr Man Therap 27, 62 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12998-019-0279-2